On a recent school visit, Washington State Superintendent Randy Dorn asked a Latino high school student if he was “legal or illegal.”
Sen. Mark Miloscia, a Republican from Federal Way running for state auditor, does not believe that racism is real anymore.
These are men elected to positions that have a huge impact on kids in our state, and these displays of privilege and ignorance are happening in public.
According to Alan Preston, managing director of Real Change, Miloscia attended a workshop on race and class at the 2016 Conference on Ending Homelessness and openly disagreed with the presentation, with the idea that race and racism are still playing a role in modern American society:
"Some of the stuff you guys are saying about class is true," he said, "but I disagree with 90 percent of what you are saying about race. It might have been true in the 1870s, but it isn't true today."
This guy was conveying an opinion that an alarming number of Americans share. It's an assertion steeped in the invisibility of White privilege.
It dismisses the suffering of newly freed Blacks after abolition, the cruel segregation of the Jim Crow Era, and the current racist system of mass incarceration. His comment was completely ignorant of how racism is baked into our educational, judicial, financial, employment and other institutions, and how that renders people of color vulnerable to poverty and homelessness.
Further showing his privilege, of the two presenters, Miloscia specifically sought out the woman of color as opposed to Preston to whitesplain all the reasons she was wrong about race and racism.
Meanwhile, there’s so little else to tell about the Dorn story that there’s basically no way to sugarcoat it. From the Seattle Times:
During a visit to Raisbeck Aviation High School on Thursday, Randy Dorn, the state’s top schools official, asked a few students their names, grade levels and where they were from. Students come from all over the region to go to Aviation, so Dorn was curious about the students’ home districts.
One student said he first went to school in Mexico. The two talked about the student’s transition to the Tukwila school, then Dorn said:
“Now I’ll ask you under my breath, are you legal or illegal?”
As a KOMO News photographer recorded the conversation, the student replied “I’m legal, I’m half American.”
These are two elected officials putting these levels of ignorance on proud display. These are two privileged white men charged with protecting and advocating on behalf of our kids and families, and they’re operating with blinders on.
Miloscia is vice chair of the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee, which “considers issues relating to services to children and families, including child welfare, child protection, dependency, and foster care. The Committee deals with mental health treatment, chemical dependency, at risk youth, and juvenile justice. The Committee also considers bills relating to housing, including state assistance to low-income housing, housing authorities, and the Housing Finance Commission.”
He is also a member of the Senate Higher Education Committee, dealing with “issues relating to the state's public and independent baccalaureate colleges and universities, public community and technical colleges, and private career schools. Issues include governance and coordination of higher education, financial aid, tuition, and workforce training.”
That means Miloscia, in committee meetings discussing things like homelessness, foster care, at-risk and homeless youth, housing, and higher education, just to name a few, is advocating that race plays no factor. He is arguing in these meetings and in our state legislature that systemic racism is a myth.
Then, when presented with information that runs counter to his privileged belief system, rather than considering the possibility that he has something to learn, he seeks out the least privileged presenter -- an expert in her field -- to paternalistically explain she is wrong.
What voice do his constituents have with that approach? What hope do we have?
And then we have Dorn, the superintendent of a public school system that has a growing opportunity gap and that claims it's working on its disproportionate discipline problem.
As long as these are our decision-makers, how can possibly expect to do right by our students and families of color?
We elected this ignorance. If Miloscia and Dorn don't hear from us now, we are complicit. If we re-elect them, we are complicit. Let's not make the same mistake again.
If Dorn and Miloscia want to continue serving people of color, which is inevitable as an elected official, they should be forced to take an implicit bias test and publicly discuss the results. We must force them to confront their privilege or show them the door.